Asbury Park-based singer-songwriter-guitarist Keith Kenny talks about the vinyl release of his latest album on Jan. 6 at John & Peter’s in New Hope, Pa.; a couple of Light of Day shows that are coming up, and his next venture out West, including the next NAMM Convention.
Whether touring Laos, the U.K., West Coast, Las Vegas or closer to home, Asbury Park singer-songwriter-guitarist Keith Kenny has a wide range of organic sounds in his diversely stylistic arsenal, including folk, country, old-time, world music, jazz, blues and good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll. Since 2008, all have been showcased on five releases, including a second LP, the vinyl rendering of which will be celebrated on Jan. 6 at John & Peter’s in New Hope, Pa., where Kenny has developed into a popular regular. The self-titled LP includes “Teenage Dream,” which features a guest appearance by fellow New Hope fave, Dean Ween.
A mix of fine picking and righteous jams on an amplified acoustic and strong story songs that mine fields of emotions, Kenny at times recalls Dave Matthews, Keller Williams and Neil Young but with his own stamp on well-rooted originals. He also will perform at the Light of Day Sandy Mack Wonder Jam on Jan. 11 at The Wonder Bar; Jan. 23, House of Blues, Las Vegas; World Famous Doll Hut, Jan. 24, Anaheim, Calif.; The NAMM Show, Jan. 27, Anaheim Convention Center; Jan. 28, The Love Song Bar, Los Angeles, and Legends, Jan. 29, also Las Vegas. Before hitting the road again, Kenny took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to chat about his successes, aspirations and inspirations in the following interview.
Question: One of the complaints a lot of Asbury Park musicians have is that they don’t get to tour enough. Given how extensively you tour, you are not one of those acts. Is it easier to tour as a solo act and do you ever tour or even perform with a band?
Answer: I basically started touring solo out of necessity. The original vision I had for my music was with a trio, drums and bass, but it’s hard to keep a band together. I was fortunate enough to meet some great musicians to play with early on that I still collaborate with to this day, but it is a big sacrifice for musicians to leave behind a steady job and/or significant others. I always knew that I wanted to do it but just couldn’t seem to find a couple other guys willing to take the leap of faith.
Q: What made you gravitate to Asbury Park and do you feel like you’re part of the scene there?
A: Back in 2005, I applied to play a ‘Super Tuesday’ at the Stone Pony, and they gave me my first shot at playing my solo gig on the big stage. After that night, I had a steady gig in Asbury at the Pony, playing there about every two weeks or so, but I really wanted to explore all the venues since I knew that there was always some sort of musical event going on in town. After a few years of bopping around, I met a ton of great musicians who really liked my music, and I really liked theirs. That was what really made me feel like a part of the scene there.
Q: Given the extent to which you tour, do you ever feel like you’re just passing through Asbury?
A: Playing anywhere in the tri-state area always feels like home to me. I spent about seven years working a full-time job and playing music at night, so I got used to driving anywhere within striking distance to play a gig and still manage to get into work the next day.
Q: So you have toured all over the country and in the U.K. and Laos. Out of all the places you’ve played, which have you enjoyed the most and why?
A: Touring the U.K. was a huge milestone for me last year. It was something that I had always wanted to do since I started playing live, and I can definitely say that I enjoyed the crowd response the most out there. At first, it was a bit intimidating to see how intently they listened to the musicians out there, even in small pubs. But after the shows, the crowds were so supportive and encouraging that I’ve started looking at another tour in the U.K. for 2018.
But the place I enjoyed playing the most was definitely in Laos back in 2013. The events that I played there were to raise awareness about UXO (Unexploded Ordinance), and it was such a unique and perspective-changing experience. A company named Aqua Survey sponsored the trip and set up some very memorable events, including performing an acoustic set at a disabled women’s center. For all of these women, it was their first concert experience, and it was such an emotional exchange. It is one of those experiences that I will always be grateful for.
Q: Would you say that event was your greatest accomplishment so far? If not, what is?
A: Last year, I got to open for three of my favorite acts at the Capitol Theatre on Garcia’s Stage: John Butler Trio, Keller Williams and Ween. Being a part of these shows was definitely a huge accomplishment for me.
Q: Why is it important to you to release your latest LP on vinyl and to have the release party at John & Peter’s?
A: Vinyl is my favorite kind of listening experience. I love the sound. I love the involvement that the listener has with the music and the artwork. I’m so happy that I was able to press this record to vinyl. It’s actually the highest fidelity experience that you can have with the album.
John & Peter’s is simply my favorite music venue in the world. There is just nowhere else in the world where I feel more comfortable experimenting with new sounds and trying to push my performances a little farther. I try to play there every other month to keep tabs on where I am at as a performing artist trying new ideas.
Q: One of the guests on the album is Dean Ween, who’s even more of a regular at John & Peter’s than you are. What did you like most about what Dean contributed to the album and do you have plans to work with him again in 2018, given that he has a new Dean Ween Group album coming out?
A: Dean’s contribution to the album is awesome! He’s been a huge inspiration for me these past couple years and a huge motivator in keeping me moving forward with my music. What I love about his part on the record is that there is no way that I possibly could have come up with that solo. It is completely unique to Deaner’s guitar style, and I think it adds an unexpected element of surprise to the song. I’m sure we will be together again this year.
Q: So you have a very busy January, including Light of Day in Asbury and the NAMM Show in Anaheim. Have you played those events before? If so, what are most looking forward to, and if not, same question?
A: Yeah, I have played both events before and definitely looking forward to playing them again this year. NAMM has been one of those events that seems to get a little better every year, and I’m really excited to get back out there with the new album. Light of Day is for a great cause to raise money and awareness for Parkinson’s disease, so to be a part of that is always a fulfilling experience.
Q: What are your plans for the rest of 2018, beyond January?
A: Well, I’m definitely working on another U.K. tour in 2018 along with some other regions of the U.S. to tour with the new album. I’m hoping to hit the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast in the spring and summer this year. There are two residencies I have been playing for the last few years that will continue into this year. One at the House of Blues in Las Vegas and the other at Sarah Street Grill in Stroudsburg, Pa. Since the new album is officially out now, it’s time to start working on the next one, so I’ll be working some new material into the live shows this year. I’m also talking with a few artists about recording projects this year so looking forward to keeping busy!
Q: Are you making a living as a recording and touring musician or is there a day job to which you have to come home?
A: For the past five years, I’ve been working on my music full time. The first three or four years were a real challenge, but it takes a while to get established in any business I think. I definitely still struggle with it, but this was my best year yet, and I just hope it keeps getting better. I recently started producing music for other artists out of my studio, Studio 303, in Central NJ, which has been a great secondary creative outlet and a way to make some extra money while I’m not on the road.
Q: What and/or who inspired you to be a singer-songwriter, how old where at that time, and looking back, what has surprised you the most about this song journey on which you’ve embarked.
A: My father was the biggest inspiration to pursue music. He would come home from work and pick up his beat-up nylon string guitar and just make up a song out of thin air. He only knew a few chords, but that was all he needed to write a great song. Eventually, he got me into playing along with him, and I got obsessed with the guitar and writing. As I started getting my own songs together, he would always encourage me to go out and play live.
I am really surprised by the journey of music because it has made me more of a social creature. When I was younger, I used to be a bit of a hermit. I was happy staying home and playing guitar by myself. Now I find myself really enjoying the social interaction of being a musician and finding people who can connect with it. It’s a great way to meet people, and it has taken me places I probably never would have gone.
Pioneer Productions Presents Wendy-Lane Bailey Women's Work (DENVILLE, NJ) -- Pioneer Productions kicks off its new Living Room Series with Women’s Work - an evening of songs by female songwriters on September 16 at 6:00pm at the Arthur Murray Studios in Denville. Conceived and performed by singer/storyteller Wendy-Lane Bailey & composer/pianist Michele Brourman it has a funny, sometimes challenging but always defiantly feminine viewpoint that brings the worlds of Broadway, pop, and country together in one show.Stone Pony To Honor Butch Pielka (ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- A special day of music to honor the legacy of the original Stone Pony co-owner and manager, Robert “Butch” Pielka, will be held Sunday, October 7, from 2:00 to 9:00pm at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. The lineup includes reunions of Cats on a Smooth Surface and The Shakes, and Lance Larson. More names are expected to be added.Victor Wainwright & The Train To Perform At Lizzie Rose Music Room (TUCKERTON, NJ) -- The Lizzie Rose Music Room presents Victor Wainwright and the Train on Wednesday, August 22 at 7:30pm. A 3 time BMA Piano Award winner, BB KING Entertainer of the Year Award Winner, and Band of the Year Award winner, Victor Wainwright is at the top of his game right now. The band is touring in support of their latest record, The Train, on Ruf Records. Tickets are 30 in advance and $35 at the door.State Theatre presents Lost 80's Live (NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Lost 80’s Live on Saturday, September 20, 2018 at 8:00pm. The Lost 80’s line-up features some of the most iconic bands from the 1980s including A Flock of Seagulls; Wang Chung; Bow Wow Wow; Farrington and Mann, Original Vocalists of When in Rome UK; Naked Eyes; and Animotion. Tickets range from $48-$98.White Eagle Hall Presents Sloan (JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- White Eagle Hall presents Sloan, one of Canada's best power-pop bands, on Friday, September 7 at 8:00pm. The band recently released their first album in four years, 12, which has become their highest-charting album in their long career. Tickets are $25.
Let’s Hang On’s Tribute to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons LIVE! at The Strand Q: So what do four guys from Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, and Massachusetts — and all currently based out of Florida — have in common with four guys from “Joisey” this summery August 3, 2018 evening at the Strand Theater in Lakewood, NJ?80's Tribute Band Almost Journey Rocks iPlay America I never in a million years would have thought about iPlay America in Freehold as being an event venue. To me, it's a place to ride bumper cars, have kids' birthday parties and play video games. Never been there.The Great Rock N Roll Time Machine LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center As we make our way inside the Grunin Center of the Arts located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ, this Saturday, July 28, 2018, we see music lovers of all ages. Some of them are wearing street clothes but some are decked out in outfits from the 1970s and ’80s for tonight’s concert by the ’70s and ’80s tribute band, The Great Rock N Roll Time Machine.Classical Guitarists Alex and Wesley Park LIVE! at The Great Auditorium The bucolic seashore town of Ocean Grove, NJ is a place designed for quiet reflection and spiritual renewal.
An artist sketches in the lush green park off Pilgrim Pathway.
Still others read or meditate in the heart of this picturesque village which features gingerbread houses and colorful gardens, all just steps away from the fresh salt air wafting off the blue Atlantic Ocean.“Rock and Roll Icons!” Hippiefest LIVE! at BergenPAC A light summer rain is falling outside Englewood, NJ’s BergenPAC this Wednesday July 25, 2018, as music lovers decked out in peace signs, tie-dyed shirts, and bell-bottomed jeans arrive for tonight’s Hippiefest concert event starring Vanilla Fudge, Rick Derringer, Mitch Ryder, and Badfingers’ Joey Molland.